I recommend checking out Goal Line Blitz, an American Football MMORPG where you can create and manage players and teams. It is new and still in development, but fun and has great potential. You can just manage one player with a few minutes everyone other day, or you can get very involved and manage multiple teams.

Card Bowl

Playing Card Football

Copyright © 2006 by Scott Crawford,

Card Bowl reproduces the game of football (American) using standard playing cards.

The game balances strategy and chance, and almost anything that happens in a real football game can happen in Card Bowl, including kickoffs, runs, passes, sacks, fumbles, interceptions, punts, field goals, etc.

Play is based on NFL football rules, which are not explained in these rules. An assumption is made that players understands NFL rules, and will use the card game rules in this framework. Consult the official NFL rules to resolve game play questions.

The game tries to replicate real football plays. Though the rules may seem complex at first, this is because the game of football is complex. The game follows a basic pattern, though, and the rules make sense in terms of the rules of football, replicating real plays and allowing many different aspects of the game to manifest.

Update January 3, 2009: I have developed Card Bowl 2 as a simplified version of the original Card Bowl. The special teams plays are essentially the same, though slightly simplified. Scrimmage plays follow the same basic principles as the original, but are much less complicated to learn and play. The simplified version replicates fewer aspects of actual football play, but still maintains the basic strategy of play calling. Penalties also have been removed.

It is recommended to learn Card Bowl using the simplified, version 2 rules, and then once the basic method of play is understood, the original complex rules which replicate many more aspects of football will be easier to learn and understand.

Full Rules Download

Download CardBowl Simplified Rules Version 2.0 (PDF)
Release date January 3, 2009

Download CardBowl Original Rules Version 1.1.6 (PDF)
Release date February 15, 2007
(Change History)

See an illustration of Example Plays with a series of diagrams (PDF).
(Applies only to original, complex rules.)

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The Basics

Special teams plays

Cards representing different values are simply drawn in a certain order, and modifiers applied to determine results (e.g. spot where kickoff is received and yardage returned).

Scrimmage plays - Version 1 (Complex)

Each player is dealt eleven cards representing players, and spreads them out on the table in formation, face down. The cards are then moved and turned over in a generally specified manner and order, in alternating turns, which represents the development of the play. In addition, at certain points of action, cards are turned over from the remaining deck, which represent the element of chance and the unanticipated dynamics of the game.

The scrimmage play evolves around match-ups between offensive and defensive cards, with the values and modifiers determining the outcome. Multiple cards on each side plus drawn cards may be involved in one match-up.

At some point during one of its turns, the offensive player executes a play (e.g. hands off the ball, throws a pass). Cards from each hand that are directly involved in the play are then added along with drawn cards, and the offensive and defensive values are compared to determine the outcome.

Once you become familiar with the rules of the game, the scrimmage plays can actually replicate the flow and dynamics of a real play.

The game does require a lot of addition, so being able to add quickly is also helpful.

Scrimmage plays - Version 2 (Simplified)

Each team has its own deck of cards (of course team playing cards would be ideal). A third deck is used as the neutral Draw Deck. For each play from scrimmage, each player selects four cards from his own deck. After each play, these four cards are placed in that player's used card pile, and can't be used again until the deck is exhausted. Thus the entire deck is used in 13 plays, then each player starts over with the whole deck.

For each play, each player places four cards from his deck face down representing players. The cards are all turned face up, and the offense chooses which card/player the play goes to based on the type of play he wants to run and the most advantageous matchup. Additional cards are then drawn from the Draw Deck and added to each player's side of the matchup. Cards involved in the play are then added along with drawn cards, and the offensive and defensive values are compared to determine the outcome. Fumbles, sacks, incomplete passes and interceptions can occur.

Notes on the Rules

Colored text is used to indicate certain parts of the rules (strategy tips and correspondence with real football) so printing them out on a color printer is recommended.

New players should skim through the rules at the beginning in order to get the gist of the game play, and then begin to play and refer to the relevant sections as needed. (At some point I hope to make web page version with hyperlinks between the different sections.)

The scrimmage aspects of the original complex version of the game may be hard to understand just from reading it without seeing it played, and so I put together some basic diagrams to illustrate some examples.

I am not a hardcore football statistician, so I have tried to make the rules more or less reflect reasonable possibilities based on my sense of the game, but without getting even more complex to try to make the game strictly statistically accurate.

This game plays well but is currently "in beta" so I'm looking for players who can test the game and provide feedback for improvement.

Is the game too complex, or parts hard to understand, or is there some inconsistency?

Do you have suggestions to simplify it or clarify it, or make it more reflective of real game play, statistically or otherwise?

And most importantly: Is it fun?

Let me know:


This game is like shareware. I'm giving it away freely, and you are free to play it and share it, but you may not charge for it or otherwise make money off of it in any way.

If you like the game and would like to reward the work I have put into it and/or support my continued development of it, you can make a donation via PayPal.

And if you have an idea for how to turn this into a commercial venture, I am open to proposals, although in creating the game it was not my intention to do so. I intentionally wanted the game to use a standard card deck so it can be enjoyed by anyone, without any special cards or game pieces. It has been a labor of love for me as someone who enjoys football and enjoys creating games.